Cheating on the ABIM Boards

By  |  June 12, 2010 |  11 

As a member of the executive committee of the American Board of Internal Medicine, I can’t provide too much of the inside scoop, so I’ll mainly point you to the published descriptions of a remarkable case: that of one Dr. Arora, who ran an ABIM board review course with a difference.

The difference was that attendees of the Arora Board Review were allegedly shown actual questions from past exams, fed to Dr. A from prior test takers – who shared dozens, and, in some cases, hundreds of questions. After a vigorous investigation, the board announced Wednesday that it has stripped scores of physicians of their board certification for periods ranging from 1-5 years. In addition, several other docs who hadn’t completed the process yet were allegedly involved; they will not be allowed to sit for the boards for similar lengths of time. The total number of sanctioned physicians: 134.

Meanwhile, the Board is suing Dr. Arora and a handful of the most egregious offenders for significant damages.

When you took your boards, you signed an attestation or clicked a little box pledging that you wouldn’t share the questions with anyone else. It’s a pledge worth honoring.

11 Comments

  1. AD June 12, 2010 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    A sad day when the ABIM decides to delicense an errant few. It evokes comparison with decisions of the SEC dealing with dishonest investment bankers.
    The action by the ABIM is long overdue and must be further extended to it’s diplomates who use the parchment on the wall to do unneeded medical interventions that benefit only their bank accounts.

  2. michael smith June 14, 2010 at 5:12 am - Reply

    I can’t believe people have stooped so low and have so little self esteem that they are not willing to do what it takes to pass the Boards. I have achieved a lot of test scores over the years, but nothing made me prouder than my passing score on the boards.

  3. Asif Hussain June 15, 2010 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    I agree with pledge of honesty that we sign(click) before the exam.We should honor it. But I wonder how can just attending the course makes you unprofessional and unethical esp when you have not taken the exam and you don’t know the content.

  4. A R June 16, 2010 at 1:37 am - Reply

    ABIM Settled with Aurora on lawsuit and run after individual doctors. Sent letters for permanent record for every attendee. Since 1989, this guy is doing the review, he was not running illegal business…and HE GETS AWAY with it. Both him and ABIM SHOULD BE SUED.

  5. exodus June 16, 2010 at 11:24 am - Reply

    While the ABIM is ethically, legally and morally justified exercising its policing function in going after Arora and errant doctors, one cannot help but wonder if the Board and its executives shoulder any responsibility in allowing this shady operation to continue for over 20 years; even as unsuspecting consumers continued to get entrapped in this system. Ok, the consumers erred and should be disciplined, but where were the regulators for so long?

    ABIM, this is your chance to clean up this industry, once and for all. Lets not end up in the same situation a few years down the road.

  6. exodus June 16, 2010 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Also, wondering if the ABIM will share its bounty with whistleblowers.

  7. N.D June 17, 2010 at 12:38 am - Reply

    One wonder how those 130 doctors are singled out of thousands others and based on what criteria. some of those doctors did not even attend the course.
    truth will reveal

  8. John June 17, 2010 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    I completely understand for the need for ABIM to have Aurora shut down, but going after individual doctors will just alienate the organization at a time when most people are upset about the plethora of board certifications needed and the expense. Additionally, it may make people realize how completely unnecessary board certification is and how board eligibility is legally compliant. It likely will not significantly negatively impact those 134 doctors, and may make the rest of them less likely to recertify when its time.

  9. Bob Wachter July 2, 2010 at 6:27 am - Reply

    As reported today on the Wall Street Journal‘s health blog, many of the sanctioned physicians have appealed the rulings.


  10. Bob Wachter July 11, 2010 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    Here’s a column, posted on KevinMD, by ABIM CEO Chris Cassel on ABIM’s thinking about the case.


  11. heartbroken August 20, 2010 at 1:35 am - Reply

    I HAVE THE PERFECT SOLUTION!!!

    1. ABIM stops harassing innocent doctors and does what it supposed to do to enhance quality of testing process.
    2. Doctors stop fighting back to oppose unfair ABIM actions and start focusing on helping patients and saving lives.

    I WILL NEVER AGREE WITH ABIM THAT I AM UNETHICAL DOCTOR.

    I would never be able to look at my patients’ eyes if I had moral issues the ABIM tries to confuse public with.
    ABIM executives: IT IS A CRIME WHAT YOU ARE DOING. Please stop!!! It is not late yet.

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About the Author:

Robert M. Wachter, MD is Professor and Interim Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where he holds the Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Chair in Hospital Medicine. He is also Chief of the Division of Hospital Medicine. He has published 250 articles and 6 books in the fields of quality, safety, and health policy. He coined the term hospitalist” in a 1996 New England Journal of Medicine article and is past-president of the Society of Hospital Medicine. He is generally considered the academic leader of the hospitalist movement, the fastest growing specialty in the history of modern medicine. He is also a national leader in the fields of patient safety and healthcare quality. He is editor of AHRQ WebM&M, a case-based patient safety journal on the Web, and AHRQ Patient Safety Network, the leading federal patient safety portal. Together, the sites receive nearly one million unique visits each year. He received one of the 2004 John M. Eisenberg Awards, the nation’s top honor in patient safety and quality. He has been selected as one of the 50 most influential physician-executives in the U.S. by Modern Healthcare magazine for the past eight years, the only academic physician to achieve this distinction; in 2015 he was #1 on the list. He is a former chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and has served on the healthcare advisory boards of several companies, including Google. His 2015 book, The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age, was a New York Times science bestseller.

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